Total’s full-year profit falls 66% as Covid pandemic hits fuel demand

France’s Total on Tuesday reported a massive drop in full-year profit, following a tumultuous 12 months in which commodity prices collapsed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The energy major said full-year 2020 net profit came in at $4.06 billion, beating expectations of $3.86 billion from analysts polled by Refinitiv. It compared with $11.8 billion for the 2019 fiscal year, reflecting a drop of 66% year-on-year.

Total also posted fourth-quarter net profit of $1.3 billion, beating analyst expectations of $1.1 billion.

Shares of Total are up around 0.8% year-to-date, having tumbled more than 28% last year.

“Total faced two major crises in 2020: the Covid-19 pandemic that severely affected global energy demand, and the oil crisis that drove the Brent price below $20 per barrel in the second quarter,” Total CEO Patrick Pouyanne said in a statement.

“In this particularly difficult context, the Group implemented an immediate action plan and proved its resilience thanks to the quality of its portfolio,” he added.

Total said it would propose a fourth-quarter dividend payout of 0.66 euros ($0.8) per share, in line with previous quarters, and set the dividend for 2020 at 2.64 euros per share.

The oil and gas industry was sent into a tailspin last year, as the coronavirus pandemic coincided with a historic demand shock, falling commodity prices, evaporating profits, unprecedented write-downs and tens of thousands of job cuts.

Last week, U.K.-based oil and gas major BP reported its first full-year net loss for a decade, while U.S. oil giant Exxon Mobil reported its fourth consecutive quarter of losses. The Anglo-Dutch oil giant Royal Dutch Shell also reported a sharp drop in full-year profits.

BP CEO Bernard Looney described 2020 as the “toughest” of his career, while Exxon Mobil CEO Darren Woods said the last 12 months “presented the most challenging market conditions Exxon Mobil has ever experienced.”

Energy majors have warned that the ongoing coronavirus crisis is likely to continue to impact their performance in the near-term while seeking to reassure investors about their future profitability.

Total reaffirmed this trend in its full-year results, saying the oil environment “remains uncertain and dependent on the recovery of global demand, still affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

International benchmark Brent crude futures traded at $61.22 a barrel on Tuesday morning, around 1.1% higher, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate futures stood at $58.54, up almost 1%.

Brent prices surpassed $60 a barrel on Monday for the first time since Jan. 2020.

Oil prices have steadily improved in recent weeks, supported by ongoing production cuts and the mass rollout of Covid vaccines.

Growing pressure on Big Oil

Last month, Total became the first major global energy company to quit the American Petroleum Institute following a review of the influential oil and gas lobby.

Total said it had decided not to renew its membership with API this year, citing disagreements over climate policies and the group’s support for easing drilling regulations.

The move was thought to represent a growing rift between oil and gas majors on either side of the Atlantic.

European oil and gas majors have generally been seen to be more willing to accelerate plans to cut carbon emissions in recent years, while U.S. peers such as Chevron and Exxon Mobil have resisted calls to diversify their portfolio.

It comes as the global oil and gas industry faces growing pressure from climate emergency campaigners, activist investors and policymakers around the world.

S&P Global ratings — one of the most influential rating companies — warned last month that it may cut the credit score on a number of major producers, including Total, Royal Dutch Shell and ExxonMobil.

The rating firm said it believes “the energy transition, price volatility, and weaker profitability are increasing risks for oil and gas producers.”
Credit: CNBC

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